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Sullivan Pipeline Intervention


Petro-Canada Proposed Sour Gas Pipeline

Petro-Canada has applied to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the Energy and Resources Conservation Board) for the following licences and permits:

  • licences to drill eleven gas wells containing a maximum hydrogen sulphide (H2S) concentration of 14.58 per cent from five different surface locations, pursuant to Section 2.020 of the Oil and Gas Conservation Regulations (OGCR)

  • a licence to construct and operate one multiwell gas battery that would have a maximum H2S content of 15 per cent, pursuant to Section 7.002(1) of the OGCR

  • permits to construct and operate two pipelines that would transport gas containing a maximum H2S content of 15 per cent, pursuant to Part 4 of the Pipeline Act

We would find it difficult to imagine a more potentially dangerous project! It has the potential to allow future damage to wildlife, fish habitat, and the watershed.

This proposal should be shelved by the ERCB until the new Land Use Framework determines what type and degree of development is appropriate and safe for this critical area. Further hearings could be held after that time, although we believe this pipeline proposal needs to be scrapped entirely.

Learn new interesting facts that might surprise you!

Sign up to help protect the Alberta Foothills.

Review the Environmental Submissions to the ERCB on the Sullivan Pipeline.

Read media articles about the pipeline and hearing.


Through the Heart of the Headwaters

The "Headwaters Region" of Pekisko Creek and Willow Creek is one of the least disturbed and most intact natural landscape on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. It is also one of our most important and ecologically sensitive watersheds, supplying water to the driest regions of Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Petro-Canada wants to put a sour gas pipeline right through the heart of it, with 38 creek crossings along the route. The picture above shows the front range where the pipeline will run through untouched forest. Speak up if you believe this is a bad idea!!

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and
the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.

-Cree Indian Proverb

Petro-Canada Sour Gas Wells and Pipeline Progress (The Saga)

The Petro-Canada proposal hearing commenced on November 12, 2008. This proposal seeks to gain approval for the drilling of 11 new wells, plus a 56 Km pipeline along the front range west of Longview. If approved, this proposal has the potential to open up this pristine landscape to further oil and gas exploration and development. The Pekisko Group strongly opposes the approval of this project.

After the Christmas recess the hearings recommenced on January 20th, 2009. Then a relationship between people involved in the hearing, one of them an ERCB employee, was revealed. This caused the hearings to be postponed. After an investigation the hearing was resumed in March. The hearings were finally completed and the lawyers had time to finish and submit their final written arguments. The ERCB then has 90 days to render a decision.

Then Suncor merged with (took over) Petro-Canada. The merger was completed on August 1, 2009 and was successful judging by Suncor's quarterly financial results released on November 6, 2009.

Another wrinkle occurred in November 2009 when the ERCB halted all approvals of sour gas wells due to a decision by the Court of Appeal of Alberta in the case of Kelly v. Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2009 ABCA 349. In this case the appellants challenged the ruling by the ERCB to deny them standing in a hearing to allow Grizzly Resources Ltd. to drill two sour gas wells near their property. This may be important in that it appears to challenge how the ERCB determines who has standing in sour gas applications based on simple distance from proposed wells and other sour gas facilities.

Stay tuned...

Also check out the PetroCant website.

The list of parties that had standing during the hearing included:

  • Big Loop Cattle Company

  • Bar AD Ranches

  • Stoney Nakoda 1st Nations

  • Three Forks Cattle company

  • Indian Graves Campground

  • Blue Bronna Wilderness Camp

  • The Burke family

  • Stoney trail Ranch

  • Buffalo Head Ranch

  • Mt. Sentinel Ranch Ltd.

  • Rocking P Ranch

  • The Pekisko group

The Discretionary Participants included:

  • The Dayment Ranch

  • Blue Ridge Outfitters

  • Defenders of Wildlife Canada

  • Full Circle Adventures

  • the Priddis Millarville Residents Association

  • Alberta Wilderness Assoc.

  • Cartwright D Ranch

  • MD Ranchlands

  • Leo D Puerzer

Sour Gas

What is Sour Gas? This is natural gas (which is mostly methane) with a certain concentration of H2S, or Hydrogen Sulphide. According to U.S. government health statistics, concentrations greater than 500 parts per million (that's .05%) can cause you to lose consciousness and can even kill you. Children and the elderly may die after being exposed to lower concentrations. The gas in the pipeline will be close to 15% H2S. Read the CBC background story here.

Also, for more background on Hydrogen Sulphide, check out this Houston Chronicle web page.

Recent Survey Results

In September of 2008, a particular question was included in Leger Marketing's Omni Alberta Study. The Survey showed that a large majority of people in Alberta agree that the government should put a moratorium on any further oil and gas development until the provincial government has finalized a land use framework to plan and balance future development for this sensitive region. The Land Use Framework (LUF) is currently forming the regulatory and planning structure to create land use plans for the defined six regions of Alberta. These plans are due late in 2009. Click here for the survey results

Local Opposition Mounting

A coalition of groups is forming to oppose this application. They are emphasizing the importance of this area as a watershed and as one of the last tracts of native fescue grass in North America, not to speak of its value for recreation, hunting, wildlife habatitat, movie making and tourism. With water becoming ever more valuable to cities, towns, agriculture and industry in southern Alberta, the potential for damage to the foothills watershed by more industrial development is not work the risk.

The groups have issues a press release calling for a moratorium. Read the Press Release

This is our Ranching Heritage

The southern Alberta foothills are home to our ranching heritage and the genesis of the Calgary Stampede. Surveys have shown that the people of Alberta believe that this area should be protected in order to protect the watershed as well as its special history. Read more in this historical review.

The Results of another earler proposal

In 1994, Amoco Canada Petroleum wanted to put in a road and drill a sour gas well in the Whaleback. The ERCB found the application deficient and decided against granting them approval. Read excerpts from that ERCB decision here. We believe that the area in which Petro-Canada wants to put their pipeline under the current application is equally critical to wildlife habitat and watershed protection. This project should also not be approved.

Comments on the ERCB Decision

The ERCB decision included 15 conditions which purport to protect the environment and public safety. Yet in examining these conditions we get the impression that this decision is a complete capitulation to the 'develop anywhere, anytime, and with as few real restictions as possible' attitude of government.

Some people would suggest that the issue is about whether the Province and the Developer (Petro-Canada / Suncor) has the right to access subsurface resource. This is not the issue simply because Petro-Canada has alternate routes of getting the gas out of the drilling area without endangering a key watershed and the health and safety of people on the Eden Valley reserve. The real issues here are Water and Public Safety.

As to water, the landscape along which the pipeline and associated road will be built is a highly productive watershed producing clean water for southern Alberta. Together, the road and pipeline will run for some 56 Km through this headwaters and cross in excess of 70 water channels. At a time when people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of clean abundant water this decision is jeopardizing a key and valuable watershed. The science of the Southern Foothills Study says that the water quality and quantity flowing from these foothills is already on the decline. This pipeline development will simply speed up the decline, reducing the availability of clean water when communities and companies are already fighting over water permits. One is presented with the question of why our government prefers to plan by crisis.

Now, on the question of public safety, would any community in Calgary, Lethbridge, or any other town allow an oil and gas company (while reassuring them that their new sour gas pipeline is safe) to come into their community and set up a type of air raid siren and then enter into every one of their homes and build a 'safe room' in case of accident? We believe the implication is clear: You would need to train your children that when the siren goes off they must run quickly back home and get in the safe room until the all-clear is sounded. Let's get our head around this. Is this Canada or some failed state war zone? Do our children and families have a right to a feeling of security in their own homes and community? According to this ERCB decision, apparently not! If your children have nightmares will we happily pay for counselling?

Other aspects of the 15 conditions are equally disturbing. For example Condition 3 requires "Petro-Canada to investigate every odour complaint". Now, when you are talking about a sour gas pipeline carrying close to 15% deadly sour gas, wouldn't they be required by normal regulations and practice to investigate a sour gas odour complaint? The implication of this Condition is that under normal practice when a phone call is received by the emergency staff of an oil and gas company (and their are many oral stories about people phoning those 'emergency numbers' and getting no answer or a recorded message) in the middle of the night they have an option of deciding whether they should check it out or simply ignore it as a crank call. Rather than providing reassurance, this Condition could well make people more fearful.

We could go on, but instead we recommend that people read the ERCB decision for themselves and in particular the Conditions that start on page 113. This is not the type of decision that instills confidence in our regulatory institutions.

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Environmental and Landowner Submissions to the ERCB

Landowner submission to the ERCB hearings.
By: Mr. Francis Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a third-generation rancher, running Mt. Sentinel organic ranch north of Chain Lakes.

Download and Read Report   [24 Kb pdf]

Cumulative Human Impacts on Native Trout Stocks in Relation to Petro-Canada's Sullivan Field Development Project
By: Dr. David Mayhood

Dr. Mayhood is a leading authority on the Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Alberta

Dowload and Read Report   [6 Mb pdf]

Petro-Canada Sullivan Field Development Project
EIA Review

By: Lorne Fitch

Mr. Fitch is a renowned Alberta Wildlife Biologist

Dowload and Read Report   [46 Kb pdf]

Petro-Canada Sullivan Field Development Plan
Environmental Assessment Review Focusing on Soils and Vegetation

By: Cheryl Bradley

Ms. Bradley is a renowned Alberta Environmental Biologist

Dowload and Read Report   [89 Kb pdf]

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Media Articles related to the Petro-Canada Sullivan Proposal

Personal Relationship Derails Hearing
By: Kelly Cryderman and Deborah Tetley, Calgary Herald

The ERCB has suspended the Petro-Canada ongoing energy application due to a "personal" relationship between a Petro-Canada representative and an ERCB employee. Read the full story here.   [pdf 14 Kb]

Fueling Fears: Sour Gas Television Mini-documentary
By: CTV W5

This program outlines the threat of sour gas and some history of accidents. It also looks at the Petro-Canada application.

View streaming video.   [12 Minutes]

The Alberta Mad-Vantage
By: Kevin Libin

Is Alberta stewarding its hydrocarbon wealth wisely? This article likens Alberta's squandering of its hydrocarbon wealth to the Bernie Madoff racket. The question of landowners is why are we willing to damage our long-term water and agricultural assets for a few more hydrocarbon dollars which may well be wasted?

Download and Read Article   [23 Kb pdf]

Our way of life is on trial in oilpatch hearing
By: David Finch

Mr. Finch suggests that the result of the hearings now underway for the Petro-Canada Sullivan pipeline proposal will have far-reaching effects.

Dowload and Read Article   [23 Kb pdf]

Editorial on the Sullivan Project Impact
By: Wendy Cartwright

Mrs. Cartwright lives and works on a ranch in the Pekisko Headwaters. Her article is an excellent review of the threats posed by the proposed development and the value of these headwaters.

Download and Read Article   [29 Kb pdf]

ERCB denies Shell Canada sour gas applications near Beaver Mines
December 16, 2008

The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) has issued Decision 2008-127, which denies four applications from Shell Canada Ltd. to construct and operate a sour gas well, two pipelines, a single well gas battery and to amend an existing licence to add a compressor. The proposed well would have been about 5.8 km southwest of the community of Beaver Mines, which lies about 20 km west of Pincher Creek

View the Decision

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